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Incidental Inventions
Incidental Inventions
Incidental Inventions
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Incidental Inventions

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“Fifty-one columns, short in length but long on wisdom” from the bestselling author of My Brilliant Friend, an HBO original series (Minneapolis Star-Tribune).

Collected here for the first time are the seeds of future novels, the timely reflections of this internationally beloved storyteller, the abiding preoccupations of a writer who has been called “one of the great novelists of our time” (The New York Times).

“This is my last column, after a year that has scared and inspired me . . . I have written as an author of novels, taking on matters that are important to me and that—if I have the will and the time—I’d like to develop within real narrative mechanisms.”

With these words, Elena Ferrante bid farewell to her year-long collaboration with the Guardian newspaper. For a full year, she wrote weekly articles, the subjects of which had been suggested by Guardian editors, making the writing process a sort of prolonged interlocution. The subjects ranged from first love to climate change, from enmity among women to the experience of seeing her novels adapted for film and TV.

Translated by Ann Goldstein, the acclaimed translator of Ferrante’s novels, and accompanied by Andrea Ucini’s intelligent, witty, and beautiful illustrations, this volume is a must for all curious readers.

“A masterclass in style: direct and clear and all the more resonant for it.” —The Saturday Paper

“If you are interested in the experience of having a drink with the author and listening to her muse on various subjects . . . here’s your answer.” —Vulture
Дата выпуска19 нояб. 2019 г.
Incidental Inventions
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Elena Ferrante

Elena Ferrante is the author of The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, The Lost Daughter, and the four volumes of the Neapolitan Quartet: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child. She is also the author of a children’s picture book illustrated by Mara Cerri, The Beach at Night, and a work of non-fiction, Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey. Incidental Inventions, her collected Guardian columns, were published in 2019. Her most recent novel is The Lying Life of Adults (Europa, 2020).

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Рейтинг: 3.65 из 5 звезд

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  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    These lovely illustrated essays are gems. The drawings hint at what is to come, a clue to the mystery of how a thought will be developed into a challenge for me, the reader. Well, not challenge, ok, like a challlenge yes if you are one who likes challenges. If you like ice cream sundaes then the essays and illustrations are like that.
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    Elena Ferrante is the international best-selling author of My Brilliant Friend (also a popular HBO series), the three other volumes of the The Neapolitan Novels, as well as several other titles. The editors of the Guardian approached her to write a year’s worth of weekly articles in 2018, and this book brings all those fascinating essays together in a gorgeous gift edition. Each piece stands on its own, is her response to a weekly question from those editors, and is headed by some striking artwork by the Italian illustrator Andrea Ucini. Her topics range from the personal ruminations of a successful writer dealing with her fame and her fans, to working on her craft, the world issues of politics and climate change, what it is to be a women in these times, and the subjects of pregnancy, loneliness, addictions, insomnia, fears, love, and much more. Fifty-two weeks yielded fifty-two columns, and fifty-two topics. Her essays are always well thought out, intelligent, and she expresses herself with a candor that I found human and honest. She reveals her feelings and while many of the pieces relate nicely with each other, they don’t need each other. I appreciated the smart, direct nature of how she relates to her topics. This was a fine collection. This slim hardcover book contains some nice quality paper and features the inventive illustrations of Andrea Ucini. He’s an Italian illustrator who now lives in Denmark. His artwork reminds me of Yan Nascimbene, a French/Italian artist and book illustrator who worked in watercolors. Vicky and I got to know him when he lived in Davis for a number of years. One of his paintings presently hangs on the wall two feet away from me. Ucini has the same palette of colors, but his art seems to be more imaginative and simpler. The book is a great example of the blending of writing with related artwork. It has a very special quality to it.
  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    Over the course of a year, Elena Ferrante produced a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper in the UK. She notes that this was her first such undertaking and that it came with its own set of anxieties. Would she be able to produce these pieces on time? Would she have anything interesting to say? Would they find readers? All of her questions have been answered in the positive. Collected together here, they present a writer self-conscious and self-reflective, anxious but also determined. And if there are no astounding insights or startling conclusions, there are at least consistent workmanly reflections, both thoughtful and occasionally thought-provoking.The topics that Ferrante tackles range from typical concerns of the professional writer, to the more particular concerns of a woman writer. Even punctuation matters, with entries on the exclamation point and on ellipses. There are also many entries that fall under the rubric of self-reflection. And again, about various experiences growing up. But what most typifies these inventions is their consistency of tone. Ferrante is never frivolous. Nor is she arch. She considers and reconsiders matters and doesn’t overreach. It would not be out of place to call such writing wise.Easily recommended.

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Incidental Inventions - Elena Ferrante





18 March 2019

In the autumn of 2017 the Guardian proposed that I write a weekly column. I was flattered and at the same time frightened. I had no experience with that type of writing, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do it. After much hesitation, I told the editors that I would accept the offer if they would send me a series of questions, which I would answer, each time, within the limits of the allotted space. My request was immediately granted, along with an agreement that the column wouldn’t last more than a year. The year passed slowly, and it was instructive for me. I had never put myself in the situation of being obliged to write, locked within an invulnerable perimeter, on topics that I myself had asked the extremely patient editors to suggest. I’m used to looking on my own for a story, characters, a logic, putting one word after another, often laboriously, eliminating a lot; what I find at the end—assuming that I find something—is surprising, especially to me. It’s as if one sentence had generated the next, taking advantage of my still uncertain intentions, and I never know if the result is good or not: yet it’s there, and now I have to work on it—the moment has come when the text will take the form I want.

But the Guardian columns were governed by the random collision between the editors’ subject and the urgency of writing. While the first draft of a story might be followed immediately by a long—sometimes very long—period of closer examination, rewriting, expansion or meticulous reduction, here the process was minimal. For these pieces I rummaged through memory in search of small illustrative experiences; impulsively drew on convictions formed by books read many years ago, then cast off and recovered, thanks to other readings; pursued sudden intuitions inspired by that same need to write; came to abrupt conclusions because the space had been used up. In other words, it was a new form of writing: every time I hurriedly dipped the bucket into some dark depth of my mind, I hauled up a sentence and waited apprehensively for others to follow.

The result is this book, which happens to begin on 20 January 2018, with the perennial uncertainty of something done for the first time, and happens to end on 12 January 2019, with the clarity of something done for the last time. I was tempted to give a more thoughtful order to the different parts, and I drafted possible arrangements. But setting them out as if they had originated in a carefully considered project seemed an exaggeration, and in the end I left them in the order of publication. I didn’t want to hide—especially from myself—their nature as incidental inventions, no different from those with which we daily react to the world we happen to live in.

The Pieces


The First Time

20 January 2018

Some time ago, I planned to describe my first times. I listed a certain number of them: the first time I saw the sea, the first time I flew in an aeroplane, the first time I got drunk, the first time I fell in love, the first time I made love. It was an exercise both arduous and pointless.

For that matter, how could it be otherwise? We always look at first times with excessive indulgence. Even if by their nature they’re founded on inexperience, and so as a rule are not very successful, we recall them with sympathy, with regret. They’re swallowed up by all the times that have followed, by their transformation into habit, and yet we attribute to them the power of the unrepeatable.

Precisely because of this innate contradiction, my project began to sink right away and shipwrecked conclusively when I tried to describe my first love truthfully. I made an effort to search my memory for details and I found few. He was very tall, very thin, and seemed handsome to me. He was seventeen, I fifteen. We saw each other every day at six in the evening. We went to a deserted alley behind the bus station. He spoke to me, but not much; kissed me, but not much; caressed me, but not much. What primarily interested him was that I should caress him. One evening—was it evening?—I kissed him as I would have liked him to kiss me. I did it with such an eager, shameless intensity that afterwards I decided not to see him again. But already I don’t know if that really happened then, or in the course of other brief loves that followed. Certainly I loved that boy to the point where, seeing him, I lost every perception of the world, and felt close to fainting, not out of weakness but out of an excess of energy.

Consequently, I discovered, what I distinctly remember of my first love is my state of confusion. Or rather, the more I worked on it, the more I focused on deficiencies: vague memory, sentimental uncertainties, anxieties, dissatisfaction. Nothing, in fact, was sufficient; I expected and wanted more, and was surprised that he, on the other hand, after wanting me so much, found me superfluous and ran away because he had other things to do.

All right, I said to myself, you will write about how altogether wanting first love is. But, as soon as I tried, the writing rebelled, it tended to fill gaps, to give the experience the stereotypical melancholy of adolescence. It’s why I said, that’s enough of first times. What we were at the beginning is only a vague patch of colour contemplated from the edge of what we have become.



27 January 2018

I’m not brave. Most of all I’m afraid of anything that creeps, and especially snakes. I’m afraid of spiders, woodworms, mosquitoes, even flies. I’m afraid of heights, and of elevators, cable cars, aeroplanes. I’m afraid of the very ground we stand on when I imagine that it might split open or, because of a sudden breakdown in the workings of the universe, fall down, as in the nursery rhyme we recited as children, playing ring around the rosy. Ring around the rosy, The world falls down, The earth falls down, All fall down: ah, how those words terrified me. I’m afraid of all human beings when they become violent: I’m afraid of them when they shout, when they insult, when they wield words of contempt, clubs, chains, weapons that slash or shoot, atomic bombs.

And yet, as a child, whenever it was necessary to appear fearless, I appeared fearless. I soon got used to being less afraid of dangers, whether real or imaginary, and began to fear more, much more, the moment when others reacted as I hadn’t known how to react. My girlfriends shrieked because there was a spider? I overcame my disgust and killed it. The man I loved proposed a vacation in the mountains with the obligatory rides on a chairlift? I was dripping with sweat, but I went.

Once, the cat brought in a snake and left it under my bed, and I, with a broom and dustpan, screaming, chased it out. And if someone threatens my daughters, or me, or any human being, or any harmless animal, I resist the desire to run away.

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